Magnetic Directions

Clover flowers are my favorite flowers of all time. I love the way they smell. I love how prolific they are. I love the fact that, while most of them are white (like the ones in the picture below), you occasionally run across delicately pink ones – and it’s like a surprise gift every time.

I love the way they remind me of the best parts of my young childhood – because they grew in abundance in our yard when I was little and I could pick them by the thousands if I wanted to, and yet never make a visual dent! (That went for dandelions, too.)

I love that spending time with clover flowers and their leaves can once in a great while yield the great prize: a four-leaf clover. Even when you don’t find one, the chance that you might is always special.



My daughter picked that little bouquet for me at the bus stop this morning – her last day of school. She was nervous and sad and excited all at the same time. Leaning on me, clingy – yet at the same time, anxious to get going, to spend one more day with her best friend, to talk about being pen pals.

This isn’t just the last day of the school year for her and her brother: it’s the last day at this school, as we’re moving in a few weeks to Richmond, VA, (from Fairfax.) Just two hours away – but that’s worlds away when you’re a kid and it means a new school.


But it feels like a different world from my perspective, too, I have to say! A new apartment…new routines. A new city to explore, with new sights and sounds, a different pace, a different vibe. (The lawyer/politician/three-piece-suit culture that permeates the DC area doesn’t suit me at all.)

Honestly, I can’t wait!


I had a song stuck in my head as I walked home from the bus stop, clover bouquet in hand. I’ve never seen Into the Wild – but I came across this song somehow recently from the soundtrack, and I can’t stop listening to it. It just really suits my current headspace, I suppose – the tone of it….and the lyrics very much:

Such is the passage of time, too fast to fold.

Suddenly swallowed by signs, lo and behold.

Gonna rise up.

Find my direction magnetically.


As I walked this morning, clover bouquet in hand, I found myself thinking back to my walks to and from class when I was in college – about the trees there, and the different routes you could take to get around campus, most of which were picturesque, paths bisecting green spaces, framed by trees and interesting architecture. (This was at Ohio State, in Columbus, OH.)

Something about the smells and sounds was taking me back.

It was sprinkling a little bit as I walked, and it had rained not that long ago, so everything had that wet grass, wet leaves, wet trees, wet road smell. And the slightly softer and gentler sound the traffic makes when it’s driving on roads that aren’t dry.

I chanced to sniff at my clover – and that took me even farther back.


We lived out in the country when I was my own kids’ age – and I spent a fair amount of time back then in our big yard or front porch. From my bedroom window, I could look out to the farm across the street and the enormous old tree there. I loved to watch that tree in the wind and on rainy days.

I went to this little Catholic elementary school then – and I have strong memories about the smell of the wood in the old-fashioned school buildings, and the sounds and scents and overall aesthetic impressions of the place. You could walk along pretty paths to grassy areas framed by big trees – and we’d have class activities outside sometimes. You could take another path to a really lovely grotto [actually online!: here], where they had special masses and school events.

The nuns who taught seemed like they all played guitar – and even the religious songs we sang were folk-tinged, sung to guitar (very hippie-ish!)

It was a really nice place to go to school as a young kid.

My mom and dad were in no way hippie types – not into the arts (music or crafts or anything of that sort) or the outdoors. But still, because of where we were (in the country) and where we went to school, my existence at that time veered in that direction. And the organic quality of that hugely suited me.

Clover flowers and dandelions and the wind blowing through the leaves of big trees.


I don’t know that where I’m moving to in Richmond is going to give me – or my kids – what I had at Ohio State (at least, not on a daily basis), or in the country as a kid. Day-to-day, it’s going to be pretty much suburbia. Attractive in its way – but inescapably superficial.

We realize this going in – but we chose the area on purpose anyway, over locales that were more inherently interesting to us, primarily because our son is dyslexic and we wanted him to go to as well-funded/well-administered an elementary school as possible so that he can get the best access to help.

And then also because it’s like five minutes from my ex’s work (the kids’ dad) – and the easier it is for him to be involved with the kids, the easier it is for me to focus on the non-childcare-related things I want/need to focus on. (As alluded to here. And I’ll be talking a lot more about this in the coming months.)

But it’s a step in the right direction – suburbia or not. Getting out of the greater-DC area and to a place that is less expensive to live in and better-suited to us culturally, more in line with our collective needs/wants – this is a good thing. And I’ll take every step and good thing that I can get!

And I can say that, as far as suburbia goes, it’s heads and shoulders above where we are currently (greater-Fairfax, VA.) For example: from the new place we’ll be able to walk to the kids’ school – an accessibility and opportunity for community involvement that we’re all looking forward to. There are nice sidewalks (and a considerably less hectic pace of traffic) for walking/biking easily and safely, not only to the school, but also out for errands – to the banks/doctors/grocery stores/etc; I like that. There’s a big park in walking distance too, connected to a really nice county library.

All in all, it’s about as nice a suburban setup as suburbia can get, I think. It should be really comfortable.

And as far as things-interesting? There’s the fact that it’s an easy drive from there into downtown Richmond (as opposed to what we have to do now to get into downtown DC, or really anywhere we want to go in the area: which is fight the DC traffic or pay out for an increasingly unsatisfying metro ride.) And Richmond reportedly boasts a really nice creative culture.

We’re pretty excited about that! There’s a real dearth, here in greater-DC, of the sort of indie coffeehouse/bookstore/little pub/etc kind of culture that both I and my ex really enjoy. It exists – but from where we’re situated, it’s hard to access it.

Not to mention that, as with most things around here, when we do go seeking it, engaging is a more expensive proposition than is easy for us to manage. We were in a college town for too long, I guess! (Lawrence, KS, where we lived before moving to DC; and I was in Columbus, OH, prior to that – which, though a much bigger city with a ton of urban amenities, in no way equated with the DC area, price-wise.) We got spoiled! And we pine now for our cool (and cheap!) little coffeehouses, and indie bookstores & movie theatres, and ethnic restaurants, and eclectic little shops and galleries. Any and all of which you could access without breaking the bank!

Richmond promises to be much more satisfying in that area. (Yay!)

It’s going to be so nice to get down there!


So, I’m aware, intellectually, that I’m on the edge of a lot of change at the moment. But wow…I’m really feeling it today.

Change means new clover patches to wander in, and new chances for walks under rainy trees.

It means endless, infinite possibility.

More than anything, I felt the sense of that – the possibility – wrapping all around me as I walked today. It was a tangible thing – as much as the feel of the flowers in my fingers or the smell of the rain.

And that felt really, really good.


5 thoughts on “Magnetic Directions

  1. It’s nice to read about someone finding a kind of serenity that authentic, while still looking at things as they really are.

    The bad rap the suburbs get is the belief there is an inherent force toward conformity when it isn’t pushing the keep-up-with-the-Jones impulse (which tends to be always rooted in materialism, that which can be paraded before the neighborhood). And over-hanging all of that is the sense it lulls people into a kind of sleep, a bubbled cut off from the realities of the world. But the suburbs don’t have to be like that. They can be vibrant and engaged communities. I’m sure you’ll help push it towards that better place. 🙂


    1. I’m hoping you’re right about the potential of the suburbs! A “vibrant and engaged community” is what I very much want!! Your bad rap description pretty much perfectly encapsulates my concerns with suburban living – but I agree with you that it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. And there are some really distinct benefits (most particularly when you have kids and need good, well-funded schools) to choosing a suburban area. I’m hoping very much that we’ll find (maybe through getting involved with the school?) the kind of community we would love to have (the energy, the creativity, etc – all that stuff that isn’t typically “suburban”). And if not, it would be so great to be able to be the means of shifting it a little in that direction. I’d love that!

      Thanks so much for the encouragement!! 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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